U Visas & Green Card Based on U Nonimmigrant Visa Status for Victims of a Crime

The U nonimmigrant visa type covers aliens who have been a witness to a crime or have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse as a victim of a crime in the United States. The U nonimmigrant visa type was implemented with the passage of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act for the purpose of assisting law enforcement or government officials in an ongoing investigation or for the prosecution of certain crimes. There is a congressional limitation on the number of U visas that may be issued to principal U visa applicants, this limitation is also known as a cap. Only 10,000 U visas may be issued to each principal applicant per year. Family members of principal applicants are covered under the U visa classification. There is no cap on U visas granted to family members entitled to derivative status as a result of the principal applicant’s U status. Such family members include spouses and unmarried minor children of the principal applicant. The U nonimmigrant visa type is valid for a four-year period; however, applicants may request extensions in limited circumstances such as at the request of law enforcement or while a green card application is in process, etc. U visa petitions are filed with and processed by the Vermont Service Center. There is no fee associated with the filing of a U visa petition. Witnesses and victims of crimes may benefit from U nonimmigrant visa status if they are willing to cooperate with law enforcement agencies in the investigation and prosecution of certain crimes including but not limited to:

AbductionAbusive sexual contactAttemptBlackmail
ConspiracyDomestic ViolenceExtortionFalse Imprisonment
Female Genital MutilationFelonious AssaultFraud in Foreign Labor ContractingHostage
IncestInvoluntary ServitudeKidnappingManslaughter
MurderObstruction of JusticePeonagePerjury
ProstitutionRapeSexual AssaultSexual Exploitation
Slave TradeSolicitationStalkingTorture
TraffickingWitness TamperingUnlawful Criminal Restraint

U Visa Eligibility

You may qualify for the U nonimmigrant visa type if:

  1. You are a victim of a qualifying criminal activity in the United States;
  2. You have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of criminal activity in the United States;
  3. You possess information about the criminal activity. If you are a minor or are unable to provide information due to your incapacitation or incompetence, a parent, guardian, or next friend may assist law enforcement on your behalf;
  4. You were helpful, are helpful, or are likely to be helpful to law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the crime. If you are a minor or are unable to provide information due to a disability, a parent, guardian, or next friend may assist law enforcement on your behalf;
  5. A Federal, State, or local government official investigating or prosecuting a qualifying criminal activity certifies using Form I-198 Supplement B that you have been, are, or are likely to be helpful to the official in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal act of which you are a victim;
  6. The crime occurred in the United States or violated U.S. laws; and
  7. You are admissible to the United States. If you are inadmissible, you must request a waiver by filing USCIS Form I-192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Nonimmigrant.

U Derivative Status for Dependents

Your family member may be eligible to obtain derivative U visa status based on their relationship to you as the principal petitioner. A principal U visa petitioner can be 21 years of age or older or under 21 years of age. Family members of a principal U-1 petitioner will not receive derivative status until the principal’s U-1 petition has been approved. If you are under 21 years of age your spouse, children, parents, and unmarried siblings under the age of 18 qualify for derivative status. If you are 21 years of age or older only your spouse and children may qualify for derivative status. You must file USCIS Form I-918, Supplement A, Petition for Qualifying Family Member of U-1 Recipient to petition for your qualified family member either concurrently with your U-1 application or at a later time.

Application Process

There are 2 ways to apply for U Nonimmigrant Status depending on where you reside. If you are inside of the United States, you may file your Form I-918 along with Supplement B, and other supporting evidence with the Vermont Service Center. If you are outside of the United States, you may still file your Form I-918 and Supplement B application with the Vermont Service Center however your case will be adjudicated through consular processing at a US Consulate overseas.

Supporting Documents

The following is a list of some supporting documents that should be included with your I-918 Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status and Supplement B based on U status. The list is not all inclusive and specific details pertaining to your application should be discussed with a licensed attorney in detail. Additional documents may be necessary depending on the specific case.

To apply for U nonimmigrant status, you must submit:

A. Evidence you are the victim of a qualifying criminal activity

You must demonstrate that you have suffered direct and proximate harm as a result of the commission of the criminal act of which you were a witness or victim. Such evidence that can establish that you have been a victim of the qualifying criminal activity as a witness or victim of the crime includes:

  1. Trial transcripts;
  2. Court documents;
  3. Police reports;
  4. News articles;
  5. Affidavits; and
  6. Orders of protection.

B. Evidence you have suffered substantial and physical or mental abuse focusing specifically on the nature and severity of the abuse including the:

  1. Nature of the injury;
  2. Severity of the perpetrator’s conduct;
  3. Severity of the harm suffered;
  4. Duration of the infliction of harm; and
  5. Extent of the permanent or serious harm to your appearance, health, physical or mental soundness.

If the criminal activity occurred as a series of acts or repeated occurrences over time, you must document the pattern of abuse overtime. USCIS will consider abuse in its totality especially in situations where “a series of acts taken together may be considered to have caused substantial physical or mental abuse even where no single act alone rises to that level.” You may provide the following evidence to demonstrate such pattern of abuse:

  1. Reports and/or affidavits from judges and other court officials, medical personnel, school officials, clergy, social workers, and other social service personnel;
  2. Orders of protection and related legal documents;
  3. Photos of visible injuries supported by affidavits; and
  4. Affidavits from witnesses, acquaintances, or family members with personal knowledge of the facts involving the criminal activity.

If the criminal activity caused the aggravation of a pre-existing physical or mental injury, the aggravation will be evaluated in terms of whether the harm constitutes substantial physical or mental abuse.

C. Evidence to establish that you possess the relevant information regarding the qualifying criminal activity of which you were a witness or victim

Applicants must demonstrate that they possess knowledge of details involving the criminal activity, necessary to assist law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of that illicit activity. To fulfill this requirement, applicants may provide reports and affidavits from the police, judges, and other court officials. Such evidence should supplement Form I-918 Supplement B. If the applicant is under 16 years of age, is incapacitated, or incompetent, the applicant’s parent, guardian, or next friend can provide this information on their behalf. Documents should be provided confirming the age of the victim, and evidence of their incapacity or incompetence by providing a copy of the victim’s birth certificate, court documents establishing the ‘next friend’ as the authorized representative, medical records, and reports from licensed medical professionals attesting to the incapacity or incompetence of the victim.

D. Evidence of Helpfulness

Along with Form I-918 Supplement B you must establish that you have been, are, or will be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the illicit activity to which you have been a witness or victim. A certified official may attest to this fact by completing Supplement B. Additional evidence may be provided in support of Supplement B including:

  1. Trial transcripts;
  2. Court documents;
  3. Police reports;
  4. News articles;
  5. Copies of reimbursement forms for travel to and from court; and
  6. Affidavits of other witnesses or officials.

If the applicant is under 16 years of age, is incapacitated, or incompetent, the applicant’s parent, guardian, or next friend can provide this information on their behalf. Documents should be provided confirming the age of the victim, and evidence of their incapacity or incompetence by providing a copy of the victim’s birth certificate, court documents establishing the ‘next friend’ as the authorized representative, medical records, and reports from licensed medical professionals attesting to the incapacity or incompetence of the victim.

E. Evidence the Criminal Activity Qualifies and Violates U.S. Law or Occurred in the United States

You must establish that the criminal activity, of which you were a witness or victim, a) is included in the list of qualifying criminal activities and b) that the criminal activity violated a U.S. federal law that occurred in the United States or that extraterritorial jurisdiction exists if the crime occurred outside of the United States. Applicants must file Form I-918 Supplement B to establish this requirement and provide the following supporting evidence:

  1. Copy of the statutory provision(s) showing the elements of the offense or factual information about the criminal activity demonstrating that the criminal activity qualifies for U status;
  2. If the crime occurred outside of the US, you must provide a copy of the statutory provision for extraterritorial jurisdiction and documentation that the criminal activity violates federal law.

F. Personal Statement

Provide a personal statement describing the qualifying criminal activity that you witnessed or that you were a victim of including the following:

  1. The nature of the criminal activity
  2. When the criminal activity occurred;
  3. Who was responsible;
  4. The events surrounding the criminal activity;
  5. How the criminal activity came to be investigated or prosecuted; and
  6. What substantial physical or mental abuse you suffered as a result of the victimization

If the applicant is under 16 years of age, is incapacitated, or incompetent, the applicant’s parent, guardian, or next friend can provide this information on their behalf. Documents should be provided confirming the age of the victim, and evidence of their incapacity or incompetence by providing a copy of the victim’s birth certificate, court documents establishing the ‘next friend’ as the authorized representative, medical records, and reports from licensed medical professionals attesting to the incapacity or incompetence of the victim.

In addition, if you are applying for a U visa from abroad you must:

  • File all the necessary forms for U nonimmigrant status with the Vermont Service Center;
  • Follow all instructions that are sent from the Vermont Service Center, which will include having your fingerprints taken at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate;
  • If your petition is approved, you must undergo consular processing in order to enter the United States on a U visa, which will include an interview with a consular officer at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate who will determine whether you qualify for the U visa.

Employment Authorization

Upon approval, U visa recipients will receive their employment authorization card (EAD) from USCIS. Derivative family members are entitled to employment authorization but must file USCIS Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization along with the filing fee or Form I-912 fee waiver request to obtain their EAD card.

Green Card Eligibility

If you are a U visa recipient, you may apply for a permanent resident card if:

  • You have been physically present in the United States for a continuous period of at least 3 years since the first date of admission as a U nonimmigrant and you continue to hold that status at the time of application for adjustment of status;
  • You have not unreasonably refused to provide assistance in the criminal investigation or prosecution of the qualifying criminal activity;
  • You are not inadmissible under section 212(a)(3)(E) of the Immigration Nationality Act; and
  • You establish your presence in the United States is justified on humanitarian grounds, to ensure family unity or is in the public interest.

Green Cards for Derivative Family Members

If you have obtained U visa status as a derivative family member of a principal U-1 visa holder, you may apply for a permanent resident card. If the U visa recipient or derivative family member resides in the United States, they may apply for permanent residence by filing USCIS Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.

Qualifying Family Members who have never held U visa status

Family members who do not possess a derivative U visa, but who have a qualifying relationship to a U-1 principal visa holder (spouse, children, parents) with a pending I-485 application, may also apply for a permanent residence if:

  • The qualifying family member was never admitted to the United States in U nonimmigrant status; and
  • Either the family member or the U-1 principal applicant would suffer extreme hardship if the qualifying family member is not allowed to remain in or be admitted to the United States.

NOTE: Qualifying family members, who have not yet acquired derivative U visa status at the time the principal U visa holder becomes a permanent resident, are no longer eligible for derivative U visa status, but may apply for lawful permanent residence.

If the qualifying family member has never acquired a derivative U visa, the principal applicant must petition for each qualifying family member by filing USCIS Form I-929 Petition for Qualifying Member of U-1 Nonimmigrant before they may apply for permanent residence. The Form I-929 is the form that is used to establish whether the qualifying family member is eligible to apply for permanent residence based on the principal’s lawful permanent resident status. If the family member resides outside of the United States, they must wait for Form I-929 to be approved before applying for an immigrant visa at a United States embassy or consulate abroad.

Supporting Documents Required for Adjustment of Status Within the United States

The following is a list of some supporting documents that should be included with each adjustment of status application USCIS Form I-485 based on U status. If you have a spouse, child, or parent who is also applying based on their derivate U status they must file all of the documents below in a separate application. The list is not all inclusive and specific details pertaining to your application should be discussed with a licensed attorney in detail. Additional documents may be necessary depending on the specific case. NOTE: Do not send original documents to USCIS, except as specified below. Original documents must be collected and presented at the interview. Your spouse and children will be required to accompany you at the interview.

  1. Signed I-485, G-325A, I-765, along with supporting documents;
  2. Filing fee for I-485 payable by personal check, money order, or cashier’s check, see I-485 form instructions;
  3. Copy of Form I-797, Notice of Action, indicating approval of your U nonimmigrant status;
  4. 4 American Style Passport Photographs measuring 2” by 2”;
  5. Copy of the Beneficiary’s Birth Certificate with certified English translation;
  6. Copy of all pages of the Beneficiary’s passport containing the U Visa, and I-94;
  7. Copy of the Beneficiary’s previously issued employment authorization cards if any (front and back);
  8. Copy of marriage certificate with certified English translation (if applicable);
  9. Copy of final divorce decrees with certified English translation (if applicable);
  10. Proof of your continuous presence in the United States for at least three years since your admission in U status.
    You may submit any of the following as evidence of your continuous presence:
    1. Documentation issued by any governmental or nongovernmental authority containing your name, date of issue, a signature, seal, or other authentication by the representative of the issuing authority, college transcripts, employment records, evidence showing installment periods such as series of monthly rent receipt or utility bills, filing of federal or state income tax returns as proof of employment throughout the three-year period.
    2. If you have not maintained three-year continuous physical presence since the date of your admission in U status you must provide a document from the Attorney General or their designee proving the investigation or prosecution was completed;
  11. Documentation regarding any departure from the United States and re-entry including a) date of departure b) place of departure c) length of departure d) manner of departure e) date of return and f) place of return;
  12. Evidence of compliance with reasonable requests for assistance in the investigation or prosecution such as:
    1. A new law enforcement certification stating you have not failed to comply with reasonable requests for law enforcement assistance during your period of U nonimmigrant status or newly executed Form I-918 Supplement B, U Nonimmigrant Status Certification; or
    2. An affidavit describing your efforts to obtain a newly executed I-918 Supplement B, and documented evidence showing compliance to requests to provide assistance to law enforcement in a criminal investigation or prosecution;
    3. The affidavit should provide a description of instances where you provided assistance, instances you were requested to provide assistance after receiving the U visa, and your compliance or non-compliance to these requests;
    4. If you have refused assistance provide a detailed description of your noncompliance if you believe the noncompliance was reasonable under the circumstances. Include specific information regarding law enforcement personnel, charges filed, outcome of criminal proceedings, status of the investigation or prosecution, court documents, police reports, news articles, reimbursement forms for travel to and from court, and affidavits of witnesses or officials to support your contentions.
  13. Beneficiary’s Sealed Form I-693 Medical Examination conducted by an authorized civil surgeon;
  14. If you would like to petition a qualifying family member residing overseas, who has never received derivative U visa status you must file USCIS Form I-929 Petition for Qualifying Member of U-1 Nonimmigrant for each family member before they can immigrate to the United States through consular processing.

Applying for a Green Card through Consular Processing

If your qualifying family member resides overseas, they must apply for permanent residence through their local US Embassy or Consulate by a process known as consular processing. Your family member may apply for an immigrant visa only once their Form I-929 has been approved by USCIS. Consular processing applicants must submit Form DS-260 with the Department of State and collect the following documents for the interview stage. Necessary documents required to be presented vary by country, please review the specific consulate’s instructions for accuracy. NOTE: Originals of these documents must also be presented at the interview for authenticity purposes.

The following is a list of some supporting documents that should be included with Form DS-260. The list is not all inclusive and specific details pertaining to your application should be discussed with a licensed attorney in detail. Additional documents may be necessary depending on the specific case.

List of supporting documents for each applicant to be presented at the consular interview:

  1. Form DS-260 confirmation page;
  2. Proof of payment of DS-260 immigrant visa fee;
  3. 2 American Style Passport Photographs measuring 2” by 2”;
  4. Copy of Form I-797, Notice of Action, indicating approval of your Form I-929;
  5. Copy of the Beneficiary’s Birth Certificate with certified English translation;
  6. Copy of all pages of the Beneficiary’s passport, U.S. Visa I.D. page (if applicable), and I-94 (if applicable);
  7. Copy of the Beneficiary’s previously issued employment authorization cards if any (front and back);
  8. Evidence of claimed relationship to the principal U-1 visa holder (marriage certificate for spousal relationship, birth certificates of children for parent to child relationship, birth certificate of U-1 visa holder for child to parent relationship);
  9. Copy of Beneficiary’s military records for any country (if applicable);
  10. Copies of Beneficiary’s court and prison records (if applicable) if the intending immigrant has been convicted of a crime, provide a copy of each court or prison record, even if you were granted a pardon, amnesty, or act of clemency;
  11. Copies of custody documentation if the principal applicant is the parent of an adopted child and the child will be immigrating with the principal applicant. Provide custody documentation, adoption decree, statement of dates and places the child resided with the adoptive parent(s). If the child was adopted at 16 or 17 years old, provide evidence that the child was adopted with, or subsequent to, the adoption of, a natural sibling under age 16 by the same adoptive parent(s);
  12. Copies of police certificates for persons 16 years of age or older from your country of nationality or country of residence if you were at least 16 years of age and resided there for at least 6 months, country of previous residence if you were at least 16 years of age and resided there for at least a year, and any country where you were arrested. Some countries may not require a police certificate. Please review country reciprocity guidelines;
  13. Beneficiary’s Sealed Form I-693 Medical Examination;
    Note: Once you have received an interview appointment from the US Embassy or Consulate where you will be required to attend your interview, you will need to schedule a medical examination appointment with an authorized physician in the country where you will receive your interview. You must review the consulate’s instructions for information on how to schedule your medical examination.

For more information about U Visa Eligibility and Permanent Residence, please contact us.